Archive for the 'Depression' Category

Students with EBD Hit Hardest by Texas Cap in Special Ed Enrollment

According to reports Brian M. Rosenthal published in the Houston (TX, US) Chronicle, since the early 2000s when the Texas Education Agency (TEA) essentially limited enrollment in special education to 8.5% of the school population, the category of students with disabilities that saw the largest decline in enrollment was emotional disturbance.

Mr. Rosenthal published a series of articles reporting his investigation of systematic denial of services to students with disabilities in Texas beginning in September 2016. The TEA created a system for rating local education agencies’ special education programs that included a benchmark for how many students should be be enrolled. In an installment published 19 November 2016 and entitled “Mentally ill lose out as special ed declines,” he begins the report with the story of Alston Jeffus, an adolescent who is on his way home after spending months in a state hospital. Here are a few paragraphs from Mr. Rosenthal’s article:

The Texas Education Agency’s decision to set an 8.5 percent target for special education enrollment has led schools to cut services for children with all types of disabilities, but mentally ill students like Alston have been disproportionately affected, the Houston Chronicle has found.

Federal law requires schools to provide counseling, therapy, protection from discipline and other support to children with “emotional disturbances,” including severe anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Today, however, Texas schools serve 42 percent fewer of those students, relative to overall enrollment, than when the TEA set the benchmark in 2004.

It is a bigger drop than has occurred in almost any other disability category.

In all, an estimated 500,000 school-age children in Texas have a serious mental illness that interferes with their functioning in family, school or community activities, according to the state Health and Human Services Commission.

Only 30,034 receive special education services.

There is a lot more to this story (subscription may be required). I recommend it to readers. Also, I encourage readers haven’t been following Mr. Rosenthal’s excellent reporting on this matter to catch up; the Chronicle published a guide to the series.

Depression, suicide, choice, and our kids

In a wrenching obituary and follow-up articles, Eleni Pinnow courageously recounts her sister’s suicide following bouts of depression. Ms. Pinnow wrote, “Aletha Meyer Pinnow, 31, of Duluth (formerly of Oswego and Chicago, IL) died from depression and suicide on February 20, 2016.”

I know that most readers of EBD Blog are looking for content regarding children and youths. At 31, Aletha Pinnow was not a child nor a youth, but she had been, and we can bet that her depression was not a recent development. The reports I’ve seen do not make clear that she had a life-long condition, but it would not surprise me.

The obituary does have a special twist, though:

Aletha found her true passion in fifth grade when she decided to become a special education teacher. She graduated high school a year early to enroll in her future alma mater, Northern Illinois University (NIU), in anticipation of that goal. It is the ultimate understatement to say that Aletha loved working with people with disabilities (especially people on the autism spectrum). She was a special education teacher for over a decade and she was, as she was happy to tell you, awesome at it. She saw the potential and value of every single one of her students and she loved them with a ferocity that would make a rabid mother bear quiver.

One can learn more about Aletha in what I think is the original obituary, and a follow-up from the Washington Post.

Is suicide a “choice?” I’m not so sure. I suspect environmental conditions compel people to kill themselves. We need to understand that phenomenon better. Because suicide is not a repeatable behavior, it is impossible to complete a behavioral analysis of it. This presents a substantial problem. That does not authorize us to go off willy-nilly, spouting untestable hypotheses. The topic needs to be examined systematically.

But, importantly, as Eleni Pinnow has done, it must come out of the shadows. We can’t hide this. Especially when we see depression in children and youths. The risk is too great that that subsequently there will be substantial problems.

Little Keswick to feature talk by Ross Greene

The Little Keswick Foundation for Special Education, a philanthropic group associated with the Little Keswick School in central Virginia, announced that Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child and Lost at School, will speak at its 16th Annual Education Symposium scheduled for 10 October 2013 from 7:00 to 9:00 PM at Piedmont Virginia Community College’s V. Earl Dickinson Center. The session, entitled “Collaborative & Proactive Solutions: Understanding and Helping Behaviorally Challenging Kids (and their Caregivers),” is open to the public and there is no admission fee.

A child psychologist, Ross Greene has taught courses for the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the Department of Psychology at Virginia Tech. He is founder of Lives in the Balance, a non-profit devoted to explaining and supporting his theraputic approach, called “Collaborative Problem Solving.” In addition to his books, Professor Greene has published research articles in well-respected journals such as Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, American Journal of Psychiatry, and Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders.
Continue reading ‘Little Keswick to feature talk by Ross Greene’

Mental Health Initiative

Sometimes folks lose sight of the fact that disability and mental health issues are international in scope. They’re not confined just to one’s own neighborhood, locality, geopolitical area, etc. Fortunately, there are groups that transcend borders (you can probably think of the names of some well-know organizations that function internationally), and there are some in EBD, too. The Open Society Mental Health Initiative is an example:

The OSI Public Health Program’s Mental Health Initiative aims to ensure that people with mental disabilities (mental health problems and/or intellectual disabilities) are able to live as equal citizens in the community and to participate in society with full respect for their human rights. The Mental Health Initiative focuses on ending the unjustified and inappropriate institutionalization of people with mental disabilities by advocating for the closure of institutions and the development of community-based alternatives. The initiative works in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union (read more about the history of mental health policies in this region).

The OSI initiative is more than a one-trick pony. It’s about a lot of things, and its foci include children with Autism, mental health issues, and more. I encourage readers to check the site. Here is a link to the OSI MHI home page.

Another photo for fun

I was moving some materials from one office to another when I came across this photo of some friends. Believe it or not, I took this with a film camera. Yes, it is from the 1990s, even before 1997 or so, I think.

I suspect it was at one of the annual meetings in Tempe (AZ, US) of the Teacher Educators of Children with Behavior Disorders, as these are some of the usual suspects who attended those meetings. A casual search on any of these folks’ names will reveal that they are prominent contributors to the literature about improving the lives of children and youths with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, the families of those children and youths, other students who do and do not have disabilities, their teachers and administrators, and on and on. Students who studied just these people’s writing in detail would get quite a valuable education.

Virginia Campaign for Children’s Mental Health

Twelve key children’s services for community services boards
  1. specialized children’s emergency services;
  2. crisis stabilization;
  3. evaluations for Comprehensive Services Act services;
  4. psychiatric/medication;
  5. office-based mental health therapy;
  6. office-based substance abuse therapy;
  7. mental health case management;
  8. intellectual disabilities case management;
  9. substance abuse case management;
  10. home-based behavioral treatment and support for families;
  11. school-based day treatment; and
  12. local residential services.

Right here in my home commonwealth of Virginia last week, Mira Signe, Vicki Hardy-Murrell, John Morgan, and Margaret Nimmo Crowe explained why it is important that government and private organizations attend to and address issues in children’s mental health. By explaining that Virginia has inadequate services and that one in every five children or youths experience mental health problems at some time during their lives, they made the point that that there is a tremendous need for public focus on these issues. This was the kick-off event for the Campaign for Children’s Mental Health.

The Campaign for Children’s Mental Health is a 3-year sustained effort to make mental health services more available and accessible to Virginia children in need. It will strongly endorse Governor-elect McDonnell’s call for system improvements; urge the General Assembly and state and local government to work collaboratively with the administration to address system deficiencies; and conduct a high-profile three-year advocacy and education drive to build public and political support for improved mental health services for children.

Only about one in 20 of Virginia’s children have access to the key services listed in the accompanying box. So, four out of five children who need these services do not have access to them.

No, Virginia, this is not an acceptable way to treat our children. Let’s do better.

Screening teens

Writing under the headline “Pros and cons of screening teens for depression,” Brendan Borrell examined some of the issues that sometimes roar around surveying youths to identify those who are depressed or at risk for depression. Mr. Borrell’s article, which is one in a series of articles about depression appearing in the Los Angeles Times, addressed concerns such as parental reservations about testing of their children without permission, false positive identification of a high percentage of students, and the absence of adequate treatment for many who need help.

Mr. Borrell established the importance of the issue in his lead:

By the time a teenager graduates high school, about one out of nine of his or her peers has attempted suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, behind car accidents and homicide, and 10% to 12% of teens ponder suicide every day.

Continue reading ‘Screening teens’

Following Danny Watt’s story

Tom Jackman’s article about Danny Watt to which I referred a few days ago (see this post) is generating a lot of discussion on the Post’s Web site. The comments on Mr. Jackman’s story are informative. For example, at least a half dozen mention having a family member with mental illness. Link to the comments.